UCL Institute of Mental Health


Small Grant Funding 2019

As part of its commitment to support mental health research, the IoMH has established a small grants scheme with a commitment to award £25,000 in the coming academic financial year.

Successful applications for our small grants scheme 2019/2020.

The IoMH have successfully awarded 2019/20 Small Grants to fund three proposals that support interdisciplinary mental health research.

The influence of peer self-harm on self-harming behaviour

Dr Alexandra Pitman (Division of Psychiatry), Dr Alexandra Pike (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience), Dr Joshua Buckman (Psychology and Language Studies), Dr Oliver Robinson (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)

Description: Exposure to the suicide or self-harm of another person, whether it relates to someone you know or is reported in the media, is now understood to induce suicidal behaviour in vulnerable individuals, particularly young people. We refer to this as ‘suicide suggestion’. Suicide and self-harm are debilitating, distressing and costly to those involved and to society in general. To better prevent suicide and self-harm, we need to focus on finding things that both influence these behaviours and, importantly, can be altered. Research indicates that suicide suggestion might be one such influence. Other work has shown that this type of social influence can cause adolescents to engage in risky behaviour, and that this is driven by their fear of being rejected by their peers if they don’t conform to group norms. This study aims to investigate these influences in a laboratory setting to suggest targets for intervention.

We are very grateful to the IoMH for funding this project to investigate the phenomenon of self-harm suggestion. This is a really difficult topic to investigate epidemiologically, so it is fantastic to have this opportunity to take a new approach by collaborating with IoMH colleagues in the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, and the UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences. By working with Dr Oliver Robinson, Dr Joshua Buckman, and Dr Alex Pike on this project, we will be able to conduct online cognitive testing of young people aged 18 to 25. In a safe setting, we will be able to explore whether exposure to a peer’s self-harm affects the way a young person thinks about self-harm and whether a wash-out intervention is protective against self-harm.

The role of neighbourhood environment in children's reward processing

Prof Eirini Flouri (Institute of Education), Prof Jonathan Roiser (Psychology and Language Studies)

Description: Sensitivity to rewards (positive outcomes) and punishments (negative outcomes) is thought to contribute to the development of common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. However, we know little about the factors that determine reward and punishment sensitivity in the first place. In this project we will explore the impact of neighbourhood environment on reward and punishment sensitivity in children, using longitudinal data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a large general population cohort study following ~19,000 children born in 2000-02 in the UK. We will investigate the role of physical and social aspects of the child’s immediate residential area, at ages 9 months, and 3, 5, 7, and 11 years, on reward and punishment sensitivity at age 11 years, measured using the extensively validated CANTAB Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT).

Risk-taking and reward-seeking are strongly related to mental health, frequently as their neuropsychological antecedents. We still know relatively little about how the broader environment can affect these processes in children. This project will draw knowledge from developmental psychology and neuroscience but also geography, education, epidemiology and economics to answer this novel question in children.

Area-level variation in common mental disorders among lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning compared to heterosexual young people: a feasibility study

Dr Gemma Lewis (Division of Psychiatry), Dr Praveetha Patalay (Faculty of Population Health Sciences and Institute of Education), Dr James Kirkbride (Division of Psychiatry), Prof George Ploubidis (Institute of Education)

Description: Our project will test the feasibility of investigating area-level variation in common mental disorders among sexual minority (lesbian, gay, bisexual, gay, questioning) compared to heterosexual young people in the UK, and identify predictors of that variation. Very large datasets are needed to investigate geographical variations in health. We want to test the feasibility of investigating our research question using existing datasets in the UK. The UK has a rich collection of large research studies that follow young people over time and gather information on their health and development. Our project will combine four of these datasets, all containing information on young people’s sexual orientation, mental health and geographic area. If successful, this will be the largest dataset like this in the UK. The project is a collaboration between researchers in the UCL Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Population Health Sciences and Institute of Education, combining our expertise in youth mental health, geocoding, statistics and social science.